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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Two Got Away - Two Sat Still

Just returned from a wild goose chase. Last week  two shore birds, one formerly known as a Mongolian Plover and a second, a Red-necked Stint, touched down in southern California. I was going to ignore them, but I oh-so-want to see them - I raced off in pursuit. Alas, as I arrived at the two target venues the little feathered darlings had flown. I'd missed both by less than 24 hours. I was racked with disbelief. Depressed? Down? Bummed? Kinda pissed? Aw, you bet.

The Red-necked Stint that flew the flats. Oh cruel & yet adorable tiny peep - how could you so forsake me?

A peep formerly known as Mongolian Plover: this species eluded me once before on Attu. By the time I manage see one, it will undoubtedly rank as the most expensive birdie gracing my life list.

What was I to do but turn my few days away from home for birding purposes, into a few days away from home for some sight seeing: I decided to visit two National Parks I've somehow managed not to get to, even though they're located in my own state: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

One thing you can say for National Parks, they stay the hell put as they are approached.  

A view in King's Canyon
My visit to the twin parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon was brief, just about six hours, but for that time I got a good overview of both parks. Amazingly, I did do a short hike in Sequoia, taking a nice level trail walk to see the 3rd largest tree on Earth - the General Grant. Mind - Sequoia Park also contains the world's largest tree, but I didn't take the time to see it, this trip.

The General Grant Sequoia
The General Grant tree was humongous. My first thought on reading its sign, "America's Christmas Tree" was, 'My god, how big a crane is needed to drag this thing all the way to the White House lawn every year!'

More interesting, to me at least, than even the General Grant Sequoia, was a huge fallen redwood, propped up so tourists can tromp up and down inside of it. 

You can see a hint of the crown wandering around inside of this HUGE fallen log
You could hold a conference in a tree this gigantic
Pretty photogenic for a downed tree, right?

Western Tiger Swallowtail - one of the few winged creatures that chose to show themselves to me all week.  Thank you Mr. or Ms. Tiger Swallowtail!

Of course I had my eyes open for birds while in the parks, but although I heard maybe four or five species, I only saw Scrub Jays and a Raven. And mind - I can stay home 50% of those in my own back yard. I guess I have a birding hex on me this week. What... has word gotten around in the birdy world that I been too slow to refill the bird feeders or something?

A shell of a cabin one can walk around in - Sequoia NP
Snow Drop

I always get a kick out of this odd little wildflower - Snow Drops - I found growing amid the Giant Sequoias.

Kings Canyon - a river runs through it

There! Another pair of California National Parks seen and appreciated. You know I got my National Passport book stamped for both parks. Great save in the aftermath of a wild goose chase if I do say so myself - and I do.

Kings Canyon Craigs

Monday, July 01, 2013


The first Music Circus's show this season is a kid's specialty, The Wizard of Oz. Keep in mind, the 'kids' watching the show ranged in age from 4 years to say, 85 years. I'm in the later 1/3 of the range. The musical's music was straight out of the famous 1949 movie, the performances were magical, and there wasn't an un-enchanted theater goer in the house.

Last night I ushered a second Sunday night performance of The Wizard of Oz . I was surprised to be as tickled and happy watching the show a second time as I was for the first. I'm still a rookie usher, being 'on call' and I've been doing this for more than ten years. The 'old pro' ushers have been at it as long as 33 years. Tonight was interesting because for the first time in my experience, something happened.

First off, I was working on aisle 14, which is a big deal as it is a main aisle where props are brought on in & out and almost all the actors leave or enter the aisle at one point or another. So, you have to have an eye out to keep audience members exiting during the show, so they do not collide with Cowardly Lions, Good Witches or the odd giant head of Oz. 

Another point is, every musical has a 'hold' time just after the play begins. The entry - aisle - doors are shut and any late patrons cannot be seated. They have to wait in the hall with an usher, then when the blue hall lights flash, the usher can show them in. Holds can be as short as 5, or as long as 15 minutes.

So here we go! As I saw the start of the musical last week, last night I volunteered for the first hold before anyone even asked. The Music Circus is theater -in-the-round, so being in the hall is like being back stage in a normal theater. I love it there!
And Toto Too? Totos two!

Because I was in the hall I was able to learn a closely guarded secret of theater puppy magic -  there are a pair of terriers that cover the famous role of Toto. So now you know; Toto too? Totos Two!

Marvel with wienie
Where was I?   There are almost never late patrons to seat, so I was out there watching the wicked witch march by with her black witch's gown on hangers. Munchkins roamed the darkness. I was right next to Professor Marvel who stood with his wienie on a stick (I know, that just sounds wrong!) awaiting his cue to enter the theater. Anyhow, that bit was uneventful, & when the blue lights flashed, so I entered the theater at door 13 and sat in my aisle 14 seat, but... What the…?

 I could tell something was up - a man was in the aisle, squating, holding a kid. The entire row of patrons - adults and tots - were up & down, scurrying within the confines of the row. I  gazed at the kerfuffle in horrified amazement, and wondering how they were going to leave - if that's what they were up to, as door 14 was entirely blocked by Professor Marvel's wagon.

I jumped up, and with my flashlight encouraged the family that was rapidly flowing into the aisle, to follow me. As I lead them to a side exit, I noted a teeny little blondie boy just behind me - his face was beet red face and looked like he’d been crying. Figured the whole experience was too much for his tiny soul, & it was just as well they got him out before the witch showed up in a ball of smoke.

As they filed out the side door, one little group cowered just inside the door. I asked if I could assist them, and with her eyes locked on the main stage the Mom said, , ' we don't want to leave, but a boy threw up...'. 

Suddenly it was all too clear! Clean up, Aisle 14 - Small child exploded!

Happily, the house was only 80% full, so I lead them across aisle 14 and over to empty seats I'd passed on my way into the theater only minutes earlier. There I left them and returned to my own seat. Whew!  It was over for me, but not for the theater. While the play ran on without a single pause or hitch, theater clean up people crawled in and out that blighted aisle, returning again and again with rags, buckets, mops, bottles of disenfectant and 'odor be gone dang you' sprays. It went on right up until the intermission when even more crew, buckets and mops materialized to clean in earnst, without having to worry about the people behind them.

Oh how sorry I felt for all the people seated for three rows behind 'ground zero'. 

At intermission, our usher leader asked me to meet with him after the show. I panicked - had I done something wrong? I thought over what happened and frankly, I didn't do anything wrong, but with my brain, why live care free when you can sweat bullets for naught? After the show Aisle 14's ushers met with our fearless leader, who 'debriefed' us on the evening's events. We actually knew far more about it all than he did, as he wasn't anywhere near our area during the big ado. My co-ushers praised my actions for the evening and that made me feel I've made amends for last year's seating bomb.

In a final unexpected theater ado for this evening, one of the theater staff reported an unwanted theater goer marched up and down a doorway leading into the Circus. The staff member bravely managed to convince the littlest theater mavin to go elsewhere with its load o' stink.

[Management wishes to announce, the role of the Music Circus Skunk here on the right, is played by a equally unwanted nocturnal visitor at Auntie Barbara's house a month or so ago. The stand-in was paid in untended cat food.]